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AI Programming

A Programming Language For Self-Organizing Swarms of Drones 56

New submitter jumpjoe writes: Drones are becoming a staple of everyday news. Drone swarms are the natural extension of the drone concept for applications such as search and rescue, mapping, and agricultural and industrial monitoring. A new programming language, compiler, and virtual machine were recently introduced to specify the behaviour of an entire swarm with a single program. This programming language, called Buzz, allows for self-organizing behaviour to accomplish complex tasks with simple program. Details on the language and examples are available here. Full disclosure: I am one of the authors of the paper.
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A Programming Language For Self-Organizing Swarms of Drones

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Mandatory in all brain implant chips after 2018. And after 2020, a brain implant chip will be mandatory.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    My team has developed a much superior solution, called VOLTRON. I recommend this language above any others. Please use it instead.

    Regards.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Um... read the paper, page 10.....

      Voltron [33] is a language designed for distributed mobile sensing. Voltron allows the developer to specify the logic to be executed at several locations, without having to dictate how the robots must coordinate to achieve the objectives...

  • Puzzling Paper (Score:3, Insightful)

    by prefec2 ( 875483 ) on Thursday July 23, 2015 @11:18AM (#50168171)

    I wonder, why you constructed that language as an external language, while for the most part it is just C like. And then you did not use flex and bison to construct scanner and parser of the language or any LL parser generator. This makes the whole language developing stuff cumbersome. You did not provide any definition in the paper or your site on the grammar used (I did not find any BNF-like grammar notation). And your semantics are vague. Furthermore, it is not very clever to allow unknown symbols. While lazy loading and other mechanisms are often seen as a convenient thing by programmers (at first), they later have to pay the price and debug like hell. Especially in flying or driving robots, you do not want to have faulty code on the machine. Therefore, you should ensure that all symbols are available with their complete signature.

    BTW: Most people would have developed this with any of the DSL development tools in existence, e.g., flex/bison+emacs (if you are from the 1990s), Xtext, MPS, Spoofax etc. and generated C code which would subsequently compiled to machine code of the specific platform. That would allow to support multiple platforms and you could use the optimization capabilities of the compiler.

    • Re:Puzzling Paper (Score:5, Informative)

      by Carlo Pinciroli ( 4193763 ) on Thursday July 23, 2015 @02:14PM (#50169555)

      I'm the lead researcher in this project. Thanks for your questions! I'll try to address all of them.

      Q. Why an external language?
      A. Robot swarms are a special kind of system. It's not just a collection of computers (like a network would be), but a collections of autonomous devices that occupy space and form networks with very volatile topology. Sure one could use C/C++/Java/Python to program them, but it gets fast very complex, due to the large number of interactions among robots. We believe that it's much better to have a language that natively provides you with the right kind of abstraction, and hides whatever is not necessary for swarm-level coordination.

      Q. It looks like C.
      A. It's directly inspired by JavaScript and Lua, which in turn look like C. We wanted this, so people can get productive faster and don't need to learn a whole new syntax from scratch. The entire point of our effort is to make something people would want to use.

      Q. Why not flex/bison/LL parser ecc.
      A. No specific reason. These are just development tools - we could have used Lemon, we found it easier and more fun to make our own thing. The fact that the VM is custom is a necessary feature - it weighs only 12KB, and this means that we can put it on very resource-limited robots.

      Q. There's no BNF available.
      A. I'll publish it, it's just not on the website yet. We just went public, there's lots of work to still. Good suggestion!

      Q. Semantics are vague.
      A. That means the paper was not written clearly enough. If you have more precise feedback on this, I'd be happy to hear you.

      Q. Unknown symbols are cumbersome and potentially confusing.
      A. I see your point, and I agree. I am currently working on a way to make the debugger aware of this issue, because I think that having robot-specific symbols is an interesting idea. You raise a good point, though.

      Once more, thanks for your feedback!

      • by prefec2 ( 875483 )

        Thanks for your polite answer. On the topic of the DSL you created, one question I had was, why not an internal DSL. It would be easier to develop. True internal DSLs do not support special checks as they only can use the host language syntax. But it might be easier to develop and you can add an external DSL later. If you intend to publish on a conference they most likely will ask that question in the review process. Anyway, the topic is definitely interesting.

        • I'm not familiar with the concept of internal and external DSL. Could you please explain what you mean?
          • by prefec2 ( 875483 )

            DSL = domain-specific language. There is no sharp differentiation between general purpose languages (GPL) and DSLs. However, a DSL is a language with structures which cover specific domain concepts, e..g, communication. The two terms span a continuum where GPL is one extreme and DSL is the other. For example, SQL is a DSL for databases, Postscript for printing, HTML for webpages, while C is more or less a GPL.

            Now an external DSL is a DSL which has its own grammer, interpreter or compiler. While an internal

      • by pigiron ( 104729 )

        "Q. There's no BNF available. A. I'll publish it, it's just not on the website yet. We just went public, there's lots of work to still. Good suggestion!"

        You do the BNF first dummy. You really should have just used Lisp if you want to create a domain specific language.

        • "Q. There's no BNF available. A. I'll publish it, it's just not on the website yet. We just went public, there's lots of work to still. Good suggestion!"

          You do the BNF first dummy. You really should have just used Lisp if you want to create a domain specific language.

          He said (if I may paraphrase): he will publish it, but hasn't yet, he's kinda busy.
          It's a bit of an assumption that it doesn't exist?

          • by pigiron ( 104729 )

            "It's a bit of an assumption that it doesn't exist?"

            In the absence of any evidence that it does exist the default presumption should be that it does not.

            • I indeed started with a BNF. I just haven't had the chance to publish it yet.
            • "It's a bit of an assumption that it doesn't exist?"

              In the absence of any evidence that it does exist the default presumption should be that it does not.

              Well, when you're talking about intellectual property like that, I think there's quite a lot of stuff out there that you have no evidence of.... and if you're default presumption is that it doesn't exist, I feel kinda sorry for you and the road you're following through life, but to each their own, right? Good luck with that :)
              p.s. just because evidence isn't provided (and not requested) doesn't mean there is no evidence, either.

            • The BNF is available here [swarming.buzz]
  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday July 23, 2015 @11:18AM (#50168181) Homepage

    Why did you create a brand new programming language rather than just a library? I looked at the examples and I don't see any functionality in there that can't just as easily be accomplished with current programming languages and a simple library.

    • by Carlo Pinciroli ( 4193763 ) on Thursday July 23, 2015 @02:29PM (#50169667)

      I'm the lead researcher on this project. Thanks for your question!

      We gave your concern quite a bit of thought.

      In brief, we found no language with the features we wanted that would fit <16KB or <32KB. We wanted a dynamic language with closures, with a VM powerful enough to work in a networked environment with highly volatile topology, and that would be easy to modify to accomodate features such as swarm management and virtual stigmergy. We considered Python and Lua at first, but Python is just too complex to fit the requirements (I studied TinyPy for a week, and it's too limited) and Lua VM makes it hard to fit networking the way we wanted it.

      In the end, we thought that a dedicated language with the right features might be a good choice. After all, Python does nothing C++ doesn't do - but the level of abstraction that Python offers makes developers way more productive. With Buzz, we hope to offer a tool that makes people more productive when the problem is coordinating hundreds of robots. There's obviously lots of work to do towards this goal, and the current implementation of Buzz is just a step in that direction.

  • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Thursday July 23, 2015 @11:22AM (#50168215) Journal

    We should create a whole OS that controls Drone Swarms ....

    We'll call it ...

    BeeOS!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Will this make a drone pack defend itself against firemen trying to shoot them down?

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      No. But it will allow law enforcement to spoof a drone or group of drones and send out instructions to fly into the side of a mountain.

  • Didn't you read Michael Crichton's Prey? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
  • I thought that English and other human languages were used in online news sites comment sections by swarm of drones.
  • I'll echo a few other comments here.
    Why in the world is this a new language?

    I read the paper and it looks like it has some nice utilities (neighbors, swarm classes...) that could be captured in a library in whatever language of your choose (C, C++, Go...)

  • I did something like this for my thesis, but even I knew deep down at the time that it was all bollocks. So is this.
  • ROS basically is that language if [you think] the swarm architectural choice is a pub-sub communication strategy. Otherwise, a communication stack that leverage true mesh or P2P (ROS tries, but no go) communication could be a good foundation of a new language. Data types? Maybe "time based" types?

    Otherwise, voting logic, to hierarchical actions, etc.. can be done in a algo library.

    I would like to see a swarm/drone/OS/language that addresses no-calibration, as most swarm projects need an extensive set-up (en

  • I was hoping to find the answer to the question, "Would a swarm of pistol-packing drones beat a bear with a machine gun riding a shark?"

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